Standing in front of a wall of color choices and trying to choose a color palette for a room in your home, or the entire home, can be intimidating. The furnishings you already have, the size of the room, how light the room is and your personal color preferences all enter the equation when deciding on a color scheme. Understanding colors and how they relate to each other also feeds into your final decision. Choose colors you like and build around them when creating three-color paint schemes.

Colorful swatches
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Colors that relate to each other on the color wheel work best when choosing a three-color scheme.

Color Wheel

Understanding the 12 colors of a color wheel and how they relate to each other is a starting point for choosing colors for your room. The primary colors, red, blue and yellow, are pure and cannot be created by mixing other colors. Secondary colors are made up of two primary colors, such as blue and yellow combining to make green or red and yellow to make orange. A tertiary color is created when a secondary color is combined with a primary color. Add white to a combination to get a tint, and add black to get a shade. Color schemes are developed from these basic color combinations.


Even a monochromatic color scheme can contain three colors by using tints and shades of your chosen color. A deep forest green feature wall blends seamlessly with sage primary walls. Trim them in taupe for a quiet look. Ivory or semigloss white with an undertone of green on the trim makes the room appear crisp.


Two colors that are on the opposite sides of the color wheel are known as complementary. Yellow walls and a feature wall painted aubergene or a deep purple are complementary. Add a glacier white semigloss to the trim to bring the three-color scheme to your room and accent with orange-poppy. Another complementary mix is terracotta and deep blue. Green or yellow accents maintain the Mediterranean theme in your color mix.


Three colors that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel are known as analogous. Clay orange, peach and pale yellow used together create a bright room while shades of brown combined with bronze and gold result in a room that is rich in appearance.


Any three colors equally apart on the color wheel are known as a triad. Violet, terracotta and forest green are forceful colors, as are blue and red with yellow accents. Use a neutral of either white or white with an undertone of one of your colors for the trim.

Warm and Cool

Shades of browns are earth tones, rich and warm, blending quietly for a serene, cozy environment. Add red accents to punch up the color combination, or yellow to keep the room quiet. If cool colors are more to your taste, use shades of greens, blues and violets in your color palette.